Class blags and Power

I’m sitting in class and we’re currently discussing how to use Jarah’s class blog and its uses in helping us in class. I recognize the value of having a common aggregator to compile all the WMST488a class posts, but I do wonder about the clunky nature of moderation. The way that things go now, Jarah is in charge of moderating features of the blog while we have the ability to make posts and not much else. We cannot create pages for the blog, nor can we create our own categories.

I wonder why Jarah and Katie (?) decided to use this form instead of only acting as a class aggregator. Before continuing the discussion, I want to point out that I don’t see anything insidious in what Jarah and Katie are doing, nor do I think there is any malicious intent in their moderating practices. To some extent, they are just taking the roles they play in the classroom as discussion leaders and content moderators and recreating it online. Instead, I want to look at the power dynamics that exist between content provider and content moderator.

Moderators, like facilitators, play a central function in group settings. They keep a discussion on topic, enforce community standards, and decide what content is allowed within the community. The moderator is usually supervised by a supermoderator, whom is supervised by the administrator or site creator. The community has no real checks on the power of mods, smods, and admins aside from being able to report the bad behavior of an underling to their superiors. Of course, the community can simply ask the mod to change their behavior and a mod will do so if she is affable. The other options the community has is to dissipate and rebuild itself in another form elsewhere (i.e. SomethingAwful > 4chan > 7chan) or to launch an attack on a site to pressure to change its policies.

In the context of our class, I wonder why exactly Jarah chooses to have smod privileges. To some extent, the blog is hers and she has a right to do what she wants with it, but I also wonder about the possibilities of smod privileges in our education.

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